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Plein Air Season Is Here!

Sammamish River at Bothell Landing, oil on canvas, 30 x 40 inches, work in progress ©2017
Sammamish River at Bothell Landing, oil on canvas, 30 x 40 inches, work in progress ©2017

This painting was begun over a year ago. It had been painted during the midsummer months where everything is boringly green. I had never been completely satisfied with it, so decided to rework the painting in mid-spring, hoping that the more dynamic range of tertiary colors and deeper atmospheric perspective would make a more interesting image.

The initial stages of this reworking corresponded to the first day of my plein air painting class. This photo represents that first day of work. It was a beautiful day at the landing, with lots of children, their parents, and squawking ducks.

You can see a comparison of this reworking with the painting that it covers over on my Painter’s Workshop page.

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Snow Haiku 2016

Snow at Twilight, oil on canvas, 20 x 25 inches, copyright ©1983
Snow at Twilight, oil on canvas, 20 x 25 inches, copyright ©1983

Snow Haiku 2016

Running through the woods,
past the snow laden pine boughs
and the ice-laced brush.

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Work In Progress: Plaza Guemes, Buenos Aires

Plaza Guemes, oil on canvas, 76 x 96 inches, work in progress copyright ©2016
Plaza Guemes, oil on canvas, 76 x 96 inches, work in progress copyright ©2016

This is a long-term project, a painting of Plaza Guemes. Plaza Guemes is a public square in the Palermo Viejo district of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The painting is based on a small study that I did on location, as well as photomontages, and photographs and other source material that I developed during the course of my working on the study. You can follow the painting’s progress on my “Painter’s Workshop” page here.

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Work In Progress: Snohomish Valley, End Of Summer

Snohomish Valley, End Of Summer, oil on canvas, 30 x 40 inches, work in progress copyright ©2016
Snohomish Valley, End Of Summer, oil on canvas, 30 x 40 inches, work in progress copyright ©2016

This work in progress was begun earlier in the summer, while everything was still green. The valley is still predominately green, but beginning to shade into fall colors. You can follow its progress on my Painter’s Workshop page.

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From Catherine Creek Trail 2: Pacific Northwest Plein Air 2016 / Maryhill Museum

From Catherine Creek Trail 2, oil on canvas, 20 x 16 inches, copyright ©2016
From Catherine Creek Trail 2, oil on canvas, 20 x 16 inches, copyright ©2016

From August 22-28 I participated in the Pacific Northwest Plein Air 2016 event in and around the Columbia River Gorge near Hood River OR and Maryhill Museum, Goldendale WA. The event was a competition, exhibition and sale, hosted by the Maryhill Museum. I was joined by my friend John Laney and 38 other artists, and did four paintings over a period of four days. The works were done alla prima and en plein air. Because the works would immediately be placed in a museum exhibition, I built the frames around the panels before doing the actual paintings. This made work a bit awkward, but in the end the weight of one painting with the heavy frame helped stabilize my setup during the first day’s 30 mph gusts of wind.

I have mixed feelings about these events, partially because I think that competition in art tends to place emphasis on the wrong qualities, much like what takes place in Olympic figure skating. Nevertheless, I did get a ribbon award, for “Best Mountain,” and was flattered that Terry Miura, the juror, gave it to me. I owe big thanks to my friend and colleague Cathleen Rehfeld for encouraging us to participate in what was overall a really enjoyable week of painting in the Gorge.

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Work In Progress: No Trespassing

No Trespassing, oil on canvas, 33.5 x 39.25 inches, work in progress copyright ©2016
No Trespassing, oil on canvas, 33.5 x 39.25 inches, work in progress copyright ©2016

This is a painting that I’m currently working on site, at the Snohomish Valley viewpoint. We are looking west on an unused Department of Transportation right of way, with gate chained shut and marked no trespassing. There is a red road sign that has no icon or instruction, and the entire fence, sign and the right of way itself seem in danger of being completely overtaken by nature. It reminds me of Sartre’s description of foliage waiting to envelope the abandoned town in his novel ‘Nausea.’

No Trespassing: I’ve always been intrigued by the idea that even if there is a sign and a fence barring entry, one’s eyeballs can penetrate the prohibited space, and go dancing and gamboling about like birds on a wing. One can inhale the colors and textures through the organs of sight, like forbidden fruits stolen from a farmer’s field.

This photo was taken after the second session. The painting is being brought up gradually, with the slow articulation of leaf forms and shadows where the brambles of blackberries entangle the left side of the painting. I may emphasize even more the static banding of gray-blue and gray-purple of the sky.

One can often see wildlife at this location; hawks, deer, eagles, garter snakes, wrens, red-winged blackbirds, crows and finches. On the day that this photo was taken I saw a small lizard, which I almost mistook for a twig. It was a fence-sitting lizard, so-called because they are often seen sunning on fence posts. It is the only indigenous lizard in the area, hence easy to identify. During this session I was accompanied by two of my students, Min Zhong and Bin Li. Both were busy painting the Snohomish Valley itself, while my mind wandered down this forbidden trail.

plein air setup
plein air setup

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Jun
26

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About

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William E. Elston is a professional artist and teacher living in the Pacific Northwest. He has exhibited for over 40 years, and has works in numerous public and private collections, both in the region and internationally. He is best known for urban and rural landscape images. He is also a founding member of the Northwest Figurative Artists' Alliance.

William Elston teaches ongoing plein air classes during the Spring, Summer and Fall months. Classes are held at various locations throughout the greater Seattle area.

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